Alison McConnell, “These Walls” (Independent)

allison-mconnel-1008x1024Chances are you’ve heard Alison McConnell singing around town with her band Wonderland, but her first five-song EP is a solo affair that sounds like it was designed for your living room couch more than the sweaty, once-smoky stage of a club. These are simple folk-blues–based dramatic pieces, confessionals even, sort of an attempt to graft Lucinda Williams to Melissa Etheridge via Mazzy Star or Cowboy Junkies. There’s no 3-in-the-morning atmosphere linking the songs together, but they are quiet and thoughtful, and in their own way, epic.

What they aren’t is particularly intriguing. One by one, they unfold slowly, with sparse lyrics and lots of potential import, but though there’s a vague unease, a little restlessness, and some repressed anger in slow burners like “Saint Peter” and power ballads such as the title track, there’s no payoff to be found in too-familiar invitations like “bring it on home to me” or conclusions like “we all gotta pay our dues.” Alison’s voice expertly walks the tightrope between sounding wise and just plain earthy, but these little nuggets of wisdom aren’t worth scaling her huge walls of sound inch by inch. In fact, what emotion is here usually gets wrung out of Marco Delmar’s guitar neck. Big sounds and big presence need big ideas off which to feed.